And they wrestled all night


My intention is to continue unpacking what I began yesterday, talk about it, bring it into the light, consider what it means, consider how being at this juncture is where I’m supposed to be.

Today I opened The Good Book, which led me to a commentary by Alexander MacLaren, and there I discovered his wonderful essay about Jacob wrestling with…a man…an angel…the divine presence…God!

Alexander Maclaren (February 11, 1826 – May 5, 1910) was an English non-conformist minister of Scottish origin. “Called the “prince of expositors,” Alexander MacLaren was a renowned preacher of the 19th and 20th century. [The published collection] Expositions of Holy Scripture brings together many of the sermons over his fifty years in ministry.”(https://www.ccel.org/ccel/maclaren)

Here are some highlights from MacLaren’s commentary on Genesis 32 :

So this failure of natural power is the turning-point in the twofold
wrestle, and marks as well as symbolises the transition in Jacob’s
life and character from reliance upon self and craft to reliance upon
his divine Antagonist become his Friend.

How interesting to land on this particular story, and these particular insights now. Spiritual formation study and practise have been part of my life for over ten years. My recent studies have led me to the teachings of Contemplative Christianity (Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Margaret Silf etc.) with distinctions between living from the false self vs the true self. I am beginning to understand my longing for authenticity and integrity, and my unique place as an artist/poet in the world. I have begun to look at The Enneagram as so much more than a diagnostic justification of identity, rather a starting point toward spiritual transformation, balance, and healing. These teachings are rich, impacting. I continue to sense the draw toward this way of being.

And yet, ironically, I find myself wrestling with certain fundamentals of faith…and perhaps wrestling is what is required of me to continue on The Way with God. Do I truly desire to be transformed? Do I?

Further highlights from MacLaren’s expository on Jacob’s encounter with God (bold text by me);

God desires to go, if we do not desire Him to stay. He will go, unless
we keep Him. Then, at last, Jacob betakes himself to his true weapons.
Then, at last, he strangely wishes to keep his apparent foe. He has
learned, in some dim fashion, whom he has been resisting, and the
blessedness of having Him for friend and companion.

The desire to retain God binds Him to us. All His struggling with us
has been aimed at evoking it, and all His fulness responds to it when
evoked. Prayer is power. It conquers God. We overcome Him when we
yield. When we are vanquished, we are victors. When the life of nature
is broken within us, then from conscious weakness springs the longing
which God cannot but satisfy.

And God prevails when we prevail. His aim in all the process of His
mercy has been but to overcome our heavy earthliness and selfishness,
which resists His pleading love. His victory is our yielding, and, in
that yielding, obtaining power with Him. He delights to be held by the
hand of faith, and ever gladly yields to the heart’s cry,’Abide with
me.’ ‘I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me,’ is music to His
ear; and our saying so, in earnest, persistent clinging to Him, is His
victory as well as ours.

This is far from being tied up with a bow. I will continue to lean into what is revealed…in word, deed, circumstance, and the world around me. I don’t yet know what it means…this seeking and longing for…answers…peace…justice…love…God?

I continue to read and consider the the new name “Israel” that Jacob receives from God after morning comes and wrestling ends. I admit there is a teeny shift for me when I read MacLaren’s words;

To impose a name is the sign of authority, possession, insight into character. The change of name indicates a new epoch in a life, or a transformation of the inner man. The meaning of ‘Israel’ is ‘He (who) strives with God’; and the reason for its being conferred is more accurately given by the Revised Version, which translates, ‘For thou hast striven with God and with men,’ than in the Authorised rendering.’

A true Christian is an ‘Israel.’ His office is to wrestle with God.

jacobwrestlesgod

An encounter with the Divine…

Wrestling as worship, leading to transformation…

I wonder…

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All I want for Christmas…


I’m not usually one for Christmas lists, I seldom ask for specific gifts. Come Christmas morning I will feel quite uncomfortable with all eyes on me. I feel some pressure for an appropriate joyful, grateful response, and wanting my family to know how much they mean to me apart from what they give, but also how much I appreciate their efforts and love to me in their gifts. I’m not gifty. Perhaps I’m complicated content.

My grandmother used to say, “just a hanky,” when we asked her what she would like for her birthday or for Christmas. It seemed such a little thing, a hanky, yet I know how you reach a point (or maybe you were always there) where material things don’t mean much.

So, as I was thinking about what I’d really like for Christmas, it’s about the intangibles of relationships and social constructs that are most meaningful to me… the HOW we LIVE with one another. It comes down to the acceptance of who YOU are and who I am, and finding a way of doing life together that brings meaning and joy to both of us. I want for us to KNOW each other, to love each other all the more for knowing how imperfect yet wonderful we are.

So I am going to disclose some personal things to you with the real hope of acceptance and continued relationship. Forgive me if I’ve been less than forthcoming previously.

So here goes;DSC_0301

1. I believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. I am a simple woman, simply trying to follow Jesus and infuse all areas of my life with God’s love. I celebrate Christmas because of what I believe. If you want to hear my story, I have one to share.

2. I live in a constant tension of faith mixed with doubt. I do not have many answers, and I’m becoming more comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” It’s not about convincing, arguing, debating, although there are those who are very good at apologetics, I am not. I believe my life is becoming what it is because of God and me doing life together. It just is, and most days I believe it to be true.

3. I’m uncomfortable with organized Church. I regularly push myself to participate, serve, contribute to my local church, and for a time I feel real belonging, but I often also feel like a square peg in a round hole. I have been, and perhaps always will be, a dweller of margins.

4. I am imperfect. I say stupid things, forget birthdays, don’t return your calls or texts. I talk negative and overly-serious and deep when you want light and fun. I hide from people. I spend too much time on Facebook. I fight with my husband and my try to control my kids. I hate cleaning my house. I’d rather write or read. I’m unfriendly to some of my neighbours, and don’t speak to one. I’ve ignored you. I’ve broken promises. I am horrible at baking, but love getting praise for my cooking. I love getting praise for anything I do, but feel guilty for loving it too much. I want to do things for God, but feel I’m probably doing things for me a lot of the time. I run from conflict. I have strong opinions. I talk too much. There’s more.

5. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I have not been diagnosed with clinical depression, and I am sensitive to those who have been and how much worse they must feel compared to me. However I wonder sometimes if it would be best for everyone (my family especially) for me to spend a little time in a hospital and get myself somewhat re-tooled. If this is even possible. Often my depression lines up with SADD (several months of cloud and no sunshine in the Okanagan), menopause (sleeplessness, hot flashes, irritability etc.), and a predisposition towards introspection and time alone. I wonder how #1, #2, and #3 line up with this point. I have noticed that being more involved with projects around creative expression and things outside the world of being a stay-at-home manager of my family, helps my mental balance. I have noticed that happiness and joy are two different things.

6. I love to create, and I love to see others find their creative spirit and create. I believe passionately in how much better we all are when we find what we are meant to do, what we were created to do, and then go do it. I love to connect with others and encourage them to be their best.  I love to see the ripple effects of love, joy, and healing go out from the heart of each creative spirit into the hearts of others.

7. I want to be part of a bigger picture of creative expression. I am keeping my eyes, ears and heart open to what is next for me as part of the greater creative collective. I am considering how I may pour myself into realizing a new dream around words, writing, giving and growing.

8. I intend to continue to sign “SDG ~ Soli Deo Gloria,” to my work, and attribute thanks to God for what he allows, facilitates and carries out through my one life. I continue to desire and ask for integrity in this.

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for your open heart. This has truly been a gift to me to be able to write to you, share things at Buddy Breathing for a long time now.

I look forward to what life holds for us in 2014 and hope you write and tell me what you are up to, what you are learning.

May you be blessed with a renewed spirit of deep joy and gratitude for who you are, and the gifts you have been so rightly given.

With my love, SDG,

Lesley-Anne

Audition


Audition (album)

Audition (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You walk in, full arms all papers, water bottle and inadvertent slam

door against the wall and a cringe sorry to nobody in particular

in the empty waiting room. You try

for the appearance of nonchalance

like you’ve done this before, stomach twisting out prayers

as you wait, wonder why, and then

it’s your turn. Strong hand shake, smile

offer real, look him in the eye respond, and when he finally asks

if you would like to share some of your poems

you say yes, yes, I would, and you step up

to the borrowed music stand

your pop art sign glowing like a bright star

against every feeling of inadequacy

open your mouth

and speak him into believing.

When it is over he says good, good

and you feel a giddy gut pull where

you are almost sure

writing words and speaking words and living words

is more than just a square peg in a square hole.

SDG

It’s beautiful out here…


324. kisses on the eyelids, so tender

325. the little bird that finds me in a parking lot, drinks water from the lid of my water bottle when I bend down to answer his question

unless

unless (Photo credit: Dean Terry)

326. dog napping at my feet

327. the first writing morning in a long number of days

328. returning to gratitude

329. summer birthdays

330. wine and sweetheart cherries in the candle lit garden

331. friends around the table

332. teenagers sleeping in late

333. teenagers who are gainfully employed

334. husband rising for work

335. healthy bodies

336. the possible

337. “Unless” by Carol Shields

338. remembering Port Townsend tribe

339. opportunities presenting when eyes and hands are open

340. friends who are patient and kind

341. morning sounds

342. finding poems where you least expect

343. considering laundry

344. God who never grows tired, never gives up, waits while I do both

345. wrinkles that prove living

346. a face held by hands, top of head kissed and life words spoken

347. directors of my spirit, soul friends

348. anticipating solitude

349. family holiday plans

350. blueberry waffle plans for tomorrows breakfast

351. photography and captured moments

352. children who pull away, grow strong, test wings

353. young adult son full license success

354. reminders of those with less that teach me more

355. reminders that intentions are not enough

356. reminders to act, phone, speak, write, touch, walk, move…

357. harvest… always

Different kinds of cherries

Different kinds of cherries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adding extra to ordinary…


india kerala boat people

india kerala boat people (Photo credit: FriskoDude)

Part of me longs for extraordinary… while the other part feels rather comfortable with things just the way they are. But the first part, the one I often censor or squelch or call names, it’s the part that is most alive when I watch movies and read books and listen to people talk. It’s the part of me that holds it’s breath, that makes my heart beat just a little stronger than comfort ever will. That deep part of me has a voice that whispers over and over and over until I have to pay attention. I believe God may be calling my name.

What I’m trying to hear and trying to understand is this… that I need, or my heart might need, a jump start… an experience that would be like strapping on those ER cardiac paddles and yelling ‘CLEAR’ and holding my breath and feeling that whomp in my chest, as something big and electric and jarring and different and nothing near ordinary changes something in me. And how that change will effect my writing… as a witness,  writing about things that really matter… all this and more…

I’m a pretty ordinary gal. I’m not much of an adventurer, I’m an artist. I’m not very flexible, resilient, crowd saavy, travel saavy, or extraordinarily brave. At least, I don’t think I am. I speak one language well. So, I’m good with ordinary most days.

And maybe it’s because of my recent birthday, maybe it’s because I just promised my husband that I’m going to live to 100 and I want to make the very most of the next 50 years that I’m thinking I’ve got to bust out and figure it out and get out there in a new way that might change the trajectory of my life… or not. You know what I mean. Talk is… well, just talk.

Last night was girls night out. We went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel… yep, a sweet movie with more than a hint of introspection/perspective on counting our days, measuring our choices, and experiencing a life of joy to the end. Made me wonder if I could be doing things a little differently, a little more focused/purposeful/passionate than I have been so far. I mean, my life in Canada is so… privileged, so…vanilla, so… expected. And it’s not that I can’t do good things at home, can’t impact the world/my world from here, but still it’s awfully safe and sane and sanitized… can you relate? Still I’m not convinced… still not certain if this is real, or my imagination.

When I got home last night I spent a couple of hours online investigating India…and today I’m thinking some more about it… and I’m wondering what will come of all this? What is this all about?

India - Kids - 092

India – Kids – 092 (Photo credit: mckaysavage)

God, what are you trying to tell me?

God, I’m opening my ears, my eyes… to what is

India… far far away, crowded, hot, humid, beautiful architecture and people, deep poverty, intensely spiritual, rich in culture and history,

india calcutta bookstore

overwhelming humanity… India.

and I’m paying attention, God,

Lesley-Anne

Tuned out or turned on?


I was reminded (again) yesterday of the need to make a choice. That the outcome of my life is overseen (yes ordained too… how’s that for a mind stretch) by a God who is crazy about me, but the daily choices are mine to make.

So, here’s some choices for you and me to consider,

1. How tuned in are you? Are you willing to unplug so you can listen? Yes, I mean unplug… remember those e-free plans where you literally unplugged the TV for, say a week, or two… could we still do that with our computers… really? I mean, how could we do business, blog, communicate… :)

2. How networked are you socially? I mean, I’m a big facebook fan, but a couple of weeks ago I chose to log off until I found a better balance. I want to honour face to face time with people more. And I think I’m beginning to see some change for the good in this area. Cause really, life in the ‘pack’ is more fun than life as a lone wolf! (note to self…)Image

3. How busy are you? Are you leaving enough white margin in your life to respond to the unforeseen?

4. How grateful are you? I’m still reading and re-reading that book I told you about… “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and it appears that gratitude is just the beginning of a mind shift toward living a life of fullness and joy. Hmmm… maybe it’s time for me (us) to start our own list of 1000…just saying…

5. How present are you? When you sit at the table with your family or your friends… are you really listening? When your child climbs into the car after school… are you willing to let them be silent and join them in that? (oh boy, this is hard for me!) When you husband/wife/room-mate arrives home from work and you re-enter family life… are you willing to let go of the pot, keyboard, text plan long enough to find out how their day really was?

6. Do you take time to say thanks to people for little things? You know, like the cashier folding your clothes rather than stuffing them in the bag at the checkout, like the guy who delivered the flyer to your door, like your husband for phoning every day from his business trip?

7. Do you tell people how you feel… in words, in deeds, in prioritizing them, in putting yourself and your needs after theirs? Time’s fleeting people… all can change in an instant and we’re left trying to figure out how to pack meaning into the time we have left.

8. Do you reach out for help when you need it… or are you too scared/proud/capable to ask?

9. Do you actually see the world around you? I just met a writer/educator who’s starting a movement… it’s called ‘Connect Kids 2 Nature’… and I’m sorry, but I think I can see why. How many kids do you know who live eyes down… eyes on the cell phone… texting… while they are walking on the side of the road, riding their bikes/long boards, walking with their friends, and all they have to do is look up and PRESTO… there’s NATURE… BEAUTY… GLORIOUS WORLD all around them. So, now they need to be taught how to see again… and I guess I do too! And you can experience the world in so many ways… read it, taste it, hear it, touch it… you can even… wait for it… ImageROLL IN IT!!! Oh yeah… her life as a dog… that’s our Emmy!

10. Are you turned on? I mean, in this busy, crazy, plugged in, uploaded and networked world, are you turned on to real life all around you? Are you passionate about… something? What gets you up in the morning? What really ticks you off? What makes you frustrated? What breaks your heart? I mean I want to live turned on! Don’t you? So, if you haven’t figured out what that means for you, take some time to work through the W5 of what that might be. Then go do THAT. It will make a difference… to you and to this world.

One of my new favourite quotes is this one… you might remember it from the movie ‘Chariots of Fire’,

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” Eric Liddell

May you be able to say and experience that about whatever God made you to do… that kind of life is possible!

OK, well I’m off now… managed to write and post this in under 30 min. And that gives me time to get out there and take on the remains of this glorious day.

With you all the way,

Lesley-Anne

Keep calm and carry on.


KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

Image by hockadilly via Flickr

A word misunderstood, a glance in the wrong direction, downcast eyes, silence. Suddenly what began as a new week, fresh with energy and focus and potential, crumbles. And all before 9 AM.

Doors slam. Voices rise. Eyes fill with tears. Peace is broken.

Why is it so easy to go here, when you desire and strive for the opposite. Why is the family fraught with arguments, disagreements, conflict? This place of refuge and rest, our home, is anything but this morning. After I drive those blessed children of ours to school,  I retreat to my corner, my chores, my thoughts, my own set of tears, and pray that God will make a change.

God make a change in me. Is it me, Lord? What is this ever changing role of mother supposed to look like in your eyes?

Am I trying to control too much? Am I not entitled to an opinion? Have I not sacrificed much, loved much, given much, to be allowed to speak into their lives? And it’s not about complicated things… it’s about hair products, the type of music one might learn at guitar lessons, meeting deadlines for applications. It’s about emptying and filling the dishwasher. It’s about being respectful and polite and loving in one’s tone of voice. These are not biggies… to me… but to them, they are the mountains worth fighting for. Why?

They are growing up and away. I understand that, for the most part. They are testing their boundaries. I understand that too. All the years of investing… infant, toddler, little children, pre-teens… all to bring us to this new place called ‘young adulthood’… just as it should be. We have been preparing them to go. That’s easier said than done. Sometimes, in the words of a dear friend,  it feels like you are trying to cram everything you can into them while you still have a chance! And at the same time, I’ve grown older, more tired, perhaps even a little worn out?

I need a faith injection, Lord! I need your wisdom, clarity, energy, and a huge outpouring of your love, to allow me to love them lavishly! As they so deserve and require of me.

God knows. God is here in the middle of it with me. I don’t know what I’d do without him here. Sit on the kitchen floor and cry while the dog licks my tears and wonders what’s wrong with mama? (Hey, wait a minute, I just did that!)

Even so, I get up and turn on worship music, I turn my thoughts heavenward and ask again for the strength and resilience of God’s spirit, that will enable me to get off the floor and carry on. Deep breaths. Inhale faith. Exhale despair. Inhale peace. Exhale entitlement. Inhale grace. Inhale more of God’s grace. For me, for them.

Forgive me, Lord for losing my patience with your precious kids. Forgive me for not being a very loving mother this morning. Forgive me for causing them pain, for sending them out feeling sad and misunderstood. Forgive me for not inviting you into the situation then, rather than waiting until now. Please walk with me Lord, because I cannot bear to walk alone.

Keep calm and carry on… yes, I will do just that.

Peace, out.

Lesley-Anne

Dear Lord, I do not ask to see the path. In darkness, in anguish and in fear, I will hang on tightly to your hand, and I will close my eyes, so that you know how much trust I place in you, Spouse of my soul.

– Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad

The “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information[2] in 1939 during the beginning of World War II. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster. Two-and-a-half million copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers.[3] The designer of the poster is not known.